On November 17, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned that the organization may pay a heavy price if NATO troops leave Afghanistan too early. This statement was made after the US representative said that President Trump is expected to withdraw a significant number of American troops from the conflict-ravaged country in the coming weeks, Associated Press reported.
NATO has around 12,000 soldiers from dozens of nations in Afghanistan helping to train and advise the national security forces. More than half are not US troops, but the 30-nation alliance relies heavily on the US for transport, logistics, air support and other assistance. It’s unlikely that NATO.
“We now face a difficult decision. We have been in Afghanistan for almost 20 years, and no NATO ally wants to stay any longer than necessary. But at the same time, the price for leaving too soon or in an uncoordinated way could be very high,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement Tuesday.
He said Afghanistan still “risks becoming once again a platform for international terrorists to plan and organize attacks on our homelands. And ISIS (Islamic State) could rebuild in Afghanistan the terror caliphate it lost in Syria and Iraq.”
The U.S. decision comes just days after Trump installed a new slate of loyalists in top Pentagon positions who share his frustration with the continued troop presence in war zones.
The expected plans would cut U.S. troop numbers almost in half by Jan. 15, leaving 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.
U.S. officials said military leaders were told over the weekend about the planned withdrawal and that an executive order is in the works but has not yet been delivered to commanders.
NATO took charge of the international security effort in Afghanistan in 2003, two years after a U.S-led coalition ousted the Taliban for harboring former al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. In 2014, it began to train and advise Afghan security forces, but has gradually pulled troops out in line with a U.S.-brokered peace deal.
Stoltenberg said that “even with further US reductions, NATO will continue its mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces. We are also committed to funding them through 2024,” he added.